Women & single mothers of low-income and minority have faced more burden of the coronavirus pandemic-induced recession. It was delivered in a rare 3 step ruinous way.
First, restaurants, retail businesses and health care, where women dominate and are the parts of the economy were smacked hardest and earliest by job losses. Then a second wave began taking out local and state government jobs, another area where women outnumber men. The third blow has, for many, been the knockout: the closing of child care centers and the shift to remote schooling. That has saddled working mothers, much more than fathers, with overwhelming household responsibilities.
Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan and the mother of a second grader and a sixth grader says, “We’ve never seen this before.”
She further said, manufacturing and construction industries, where men hold most of the jobs is where recessions usually starts gutting. The impact on the economic and social landscape is both immediate and enduring.
The triple punch is not just pushing women out of jobs they held but also preventing many from seeking new ones. For an individual, it could limit prospects and earnings over a lifetime. Across a nation, it could stunt growth, robbing the economy of educated, experienced and dedicated workers.
Inequality in the workplace is influenced by inequality in the home — in terms of household and child care responsibilities. Misty L. Heggeness, a principal economist at the Census Bureau, concluded in her working paper on the pandemic’s impact for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Without a more comprehensive system of support, she said, “mothers will forever be vulnerable to career scarring during any major crisis like this pandemic.”
And according to the Census Bureau, a third of the working women 25 to 44 years old who are unemployed said the reason was child care demands. Only 12% of unemployed men cited those demands.
There have been many such instances where women have either lost the job due to lack of facility and support or not applying for jobs every day, and so far no luck.
When the pandemic caused housecleaning jobs to dry up, Andrea Poe was able to find cleaning work at a resort in Orange Beach, Alabama, about a 45-minute drive from Pensacola, Florida, where she and her 14-year-old daughter, Cheyenne Poe, had moved in with an older daughter, her fiancé and their five children.
When the pandemic ripped through Seattle and compelled Kenna Smith, 37, to work from home, which she initially saw as a chance to spend more time with her 3-year old son. Soon it was less of fun and stressed her out more
From 2015 until the pandemic, women’s increasing participation in the workforce was a primary driver of the economy’s expansion, said Stevenson, the Michigan economist.
Since February, women’s participation in the labor force has been falling, with the biggest decreases among women without college degrees who have children.
Changes forced on women by the pandemic elicit a mixture of anxiety and hope.
Many women worry that the changes will sharply narrow women’s choices and push them unwillingly into the unpaid role of full-time homemaker.
And the impact could stretch over generations, paring women’s retirement savings and reducing future earnings of children now in low-income households.